One title down. Hopefully more to come.
The Hillsdale College volleyball team clinched its second straight Great Midwest Athletic Conference regular season championship with a 3-0 win over the University of Findlay on a loud and fun Tuesday night in Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. The win makes the Chargers 20-6 overall and 17-0 in the G-MAC. Thw win gives Hillsdale a three-game lead on second-place Findlay with two regular season matches remaining.
Hillsdale is the number one overall seed in next week's conference tournament, which begins with a quarterfinal match Tuesday. A win that night would mean the Chargers will host the tournament semifinals and finals Nov. 9-10.
The three sets had plenty of drama and high-level play from both teams. Findlay took quick, early leads in the second and third sets, but Hillsdale played strong in the middle portion of each set to take, and maintain the lead to the end. Hillsdale won the sets by scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-21.
In big-time matches like this, a championship team needs its best players to rise to the occasion, and on this night, there was no one on the planet better than senior right-side hitter Paige VanderWall.
Playing with passion and control, VanderWall was a driving force of the Charger win, finishing with a match-high 20 kills and an incredible .613 hitting percentage. She had just one hitting error in 31 attempts, and was simply a matchup the Oilers could not deal with throughout the match.
VanderWall was also excellent defensively with 13 digs, an essential part of this win, because Hillsdale was challenged to counter the devastating offensive ability the Oilers have. Findlay hits hard and hits efficients from several different sources, and VanderWall, along with her teammates, were up to the task.
The match featured a number of long rallies, with both teams making spectacular defensive plays to keep the ball off the floor. Junior libero Taylor Wiese was all over the court with 17 digs. She also played excellent coverage volleyball, serving as an effective counter to the Oilers.
Serving was another key factor in the match. Findlay came into the contest as the G-MAC's best team with more than 2.5 service aces per set. The Oilers did damage there with 4 aces as a team. But the Oilers committed 12 serving errors, 11 of those coming in the first two sets. Those free, easy points are even more crucial when you have two evenly matched teams like this.
Sophomore setter Lindsey Mertz was excellent in this title-clinching match with 40 assists and 5 digs.
PHOTO: Todd Lancaster